Adam Swandi’s back in the groove after 15-month layoff
Sailors' offer of a new contract despite his long-term injury gives forward a boost on his comeback trail
Despite just returning from a 15-month layoff, Lion City Sailors forward Adam Swandi has performed impressively, racking up two goals and one assist in under 150 minutes of Singapore Premier League (SPL) action.
The long trek back wasn't smooth sailing, though.
He tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament in his right knee in July last year, but equally debilitating were the doubts that were playing on his mind.
"It really was a mental torture, but I had to remind myself that this is part and parcel of my life as a professional athlete," Adam, 24, told The New Paper.
"I saw it as a small setback and was inspired to work harder, to return better than I was before."
That meant he had to ignore the naysayers and persevere, with help from his club, peers and loved ones.
"There were some people who casually slipped in comments on how I will not be able to play the way I used to," he said.
"But I chose not to believe them. I know it's not impossible (to become better) because players like (Sailors goalkeeper) Hassan (Sunny) have shown that, if you are strong mentally and physically, you are able to pull through.
"I also had the support of my wife, my family, the medical team and coaches."
Singapore international Hassan, who tore the ACL in his right knee twice, gladly offered guidance to his teammate.
"I shared my experience with him and on how I had to make some changes to my lifestyle to aid in my recovery," said Hassan, 36.
"I changed my diet to make it more nutritious, did yoga, and reminded him (of) the importance of sleep and water intake as he had to work doubly hard in rehab."
Adam saw how Hassan put words into action - not just during training, but also before and after. "It wasn't just what he told me. It was his work ethic. He takes his prep work and recovery very seriously," Adam said.
"Seeing the way he prepares himself for the next training... taking an ice bath if he needs one; that professionalism made me look at things differently.
"Despite the mental and physical anguish, I learnt that I needed to be more professional than I was before to come back stronger from the layoff."
Also at the back of his mind was the fear that his long absence would jeopardise a contract renewal.
But that issue was put to bed towards the end of last year, when the Sailors offered him a two-year extension.
Said Sailors general manager Badri Ghent: "We knew that Adam still had his best years ahead of him, as he has yet to achieve his full potential.
"He is an important player to us and, as a club, it is important to invest in such a player's longer-term future."
The Sailors' faith in Adam provided another boost on his road to recovery, with the 2018 SPL Young Player of the Year saying: "I felt valued, it really made me feel like I'm an essential part of the team. It actually gave me a positive spur."
But, in April, the two-month circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19 presented Adam with another challenge.
Already frustrated at not being allowed to transit from running to doing ball work, the measures left him stuck at home without proper gym equipment, but he improvised with whatever he could find.
Since returning to field training in June, he has been managed cautiously by Sailors coach Aurelio Vidmar and his staff.
"When someone is switched on mentally like Adam, fighting his way through a tough period, (it) tells you what kind of character he has," said Vidmar, ahead of his side's SPL clash with Tanjong Pagar United today at Bishan Stadium.
"He is in reasonable condition, but he has added extra quality from the bench. He is not ready for a start yet, he needs to build his confidence... Goals and playing on the hard, artificial pitch at Jurong East Stadium (where they lost 3-2 to Albirex Niigata last month) are things that will help (him) get into a good mental space."
With the Sailors coming off a 7-1 mauling of Balestier Khalsa and with Adam setting himself a target of five goals and five assists, the Jaguars have been warned.
SINGAPORE PREMIER LEAGUE
LAST NIGHT'S RESULTS:
- Balestier Khalsa 2 Tampines Rovers 2
- Hougang United 4 Young Lions 1
- Lion City Sailors v Tanjong Pagar United
- Geylang International v Albirex Niigata